At the 2020 SEGD Global Design Awards, Gimpo International Airport was recognized with an Honor Award for Wayfinding. If you read the description for the project, you’ll find the project title includes the sub-heading “Info Inclusive” In this article, allow me to introduce to you the background and the intent for coining this new phrase and why I believe it should become a part of the greater discipline of designing information for a global audience.
As you’ve probably guessed, ‘Info Inclusive’ is a term that refers to information that is designed to be as inclusive as possible. It’s easy to overlook how much of an impact information presented in one’s native language has on the overall travel experience if you’re from a English speaking country because most major countries and international airports include English on public wayfinding signage. Korea is no exception. If you wonder what the sign says in Korean, you can just read the English translation below. As persons familiar and comfortable with the English language, we are definitely info privileged.
When we were awarded the contract to work alongside the KAC (Korea Airports Corporation) to develop new signage for the Gimpo International Airport, we began by gathering data and conducting field research to see how the existing signage system worked and didn’t work to guide users throughout the space. Due to the close proximity and heavy traffic of travelers from neighboring China and Japan, nearly all public signs had; Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese presented. As you might imagine, that is A LOT of information to present! Further, we found clusters of computer paper printed signage taped to pillars and walls in other languages with airline staff standing in the hallways providing additional guidance to their passengers who couldn’t read or speak any of the languages provided. We also discovered that there was a small percentage of users who were illiterate due to a lack of formal education (fairly commonplace for older generations coming up from the early years post-WWII throughout Asia). We were determined to create an information system that would be inclusive of all these different groups of travelers while improving the effectiveness of the information and wayfinding system.
“A picture is worth a thousand words” (in your language of choice)
The obvious winner of information designed for the masses is pictograms. We developed the pictograms to reflect the user’s experience as they moved throughout the airport. For example, the check in counter shows a passenger passing documents to the clerk sitting behind the counter, and departure gates are indicated with a plane nose up from a horizontal ground reference. Furthermore, we strived to make the pictogram the main reference of information by presenting it at a large scale.
We were still required to present information in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese, however, we were able to reduce the amount of information provided by applying a breadcrumbs strategy. Previously, each sign had presented too much information on a single surface, giving signage the appearance of a page of text. We carefully plotted the various courses of traverse through the airport from various nodes of travel to and from the airport to strategically provide key information necessary to the user along the user’s journey according to the user’s timeline. A simplified example of the timeline is: arrival – check-in – security – customs – departure gate.
During this process of refinement of information, we came upon an unexpected solution that had a profound impact in the overall user experience. For signage directing users to check in counters, we decided to present each airline with their logo in their colors. In this way, travelers can identify their airline provider through familiarity.
Upon implementation, we’ve seen a dramatic improvement to user experience in the airport. Information requests related to wayfinding and clusters of people gathered around signage at pinch points has also been nearly eliminated.
To find out more about the project, please visit the 2020 SEGD awards page and be sure to check out all of the other fantastic projects that were recognized for excellence.
Sherwood, Manager at YiEUM Partners, Inc.